Push Vs Pull: Why Gravity May Not Be A Pulling Force

Gravity has been the subject of interest since Newton discovered it, intriguing laypersons and scientists alike, and posing complex questions about the fundamental forces that govern and drive our universe.

Traditionally speaking, gravity is often depicted as a pulling force. However, several modern theories, especially those that stem from Einstein’s works, suggest a completely different narrative that challenges the traditional understanding of gravitational force.

This discussion is not merely academic; it forms the core of many advanced physics tuition curriculums, bridging the gap between modern and classical fundamentals of physics.

Einstein’s vs Newton’s perspective of gravity

In the 17th century, Isaac Newton conceptualised gravitational force as an attracting force between masses. According to his laws of gravity, every mass in the known universe attracts one another with a force that is directly proportional to the masses’ products and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centres. In other words, his theory presents gravitational force as a pulling force that dictates orbital dynamics and binds celestial masses.

On the other hand, Einstein’s theory of general relativity was developed in the early 20th century. He reimagined gravity as a curvature of spacetime as a result of energy and mass rather than a force. From his point of view, massive masses, such as stars and planets, warp the fabric of spacetime that surrounds them. As a result, other smaller objects travel around these warped curves, not because they are pulled by gravity but because they follow the natural paths that have been created by the warped spacetime. In other words, his theory presents gravitational force as a product of spacetime geometry, not as the conventional force that Newton conceptualised.

Is Newton’s theory of gravity a fallacy?

While Newton’s theory of gravity sets the precedence for much modern understanding, it cannot explain things, such as the bending of light as it passes through the proximity of massive objects like the sun or the peculiar orbit of Mercury.

However, to label his theory of gravitational force as a fallacy is a complete oversimplification. Newton’s law of universal gravitation was groundbreaking in its time and is still practical in many modern applications, such as predicting the motion of satellites and planets in space. However, the theory displays its apparent limitations when it comes to the quantum scale or extreme gravitational fields, whereas Einstein’s theory of general relativity offers a more accurate understanding.

Newton’s theory presents gravity as an intrinsic pulling force between masses, which works well under general conditions. However, it is not able to account for the relativistic effects that are observed and predicted when very large objects or high speeds come into play. Einstein’s theory, while at a more complex scale, also offers a more complex understanding of the nature of gravity, suggesting that what many of us have been perceiving as a pulling force is actually the effect of a curved spacetime geometry.


The debate about whether gravitational force is a pulling force certainly reflects how much our understanding of the universe has evolved over the centuries. We cannot underestimate Newton’s perspective of gravity as it laid the foundation for classical mechanics. However, it is, without a doubt, that Einstein’s theory of general relativity offered a more detailed picture of gravity, portraying it as an effect of a curved spacetime geometry.

Nevertheless, both perspectives are equally and fundamentally important, each serving different purposes in the world of physics. While Newton offered a practical and simple application, Einstein offered a more detailed understanding of the universe, demonstrating that gravity is not about pushing or pulling; it is about the bending of reality itself.

Here at Physics Tuition, we challenge our students to explore the world of physics on a deeper level. While they might be like Einstein or Newton, they are able to discover physics for themselves, taking their interest to the next level. Contact us to find out more about our curriculum and classes.